Milton Keynes Council will have to pay damages to an unsuccessful bidder after the High Court ruled the authority’s tender evaluation process was “fundamentally flawed”.
According to the judge, there were a number of manifest errors in its evaluation for a contract, and the council was in breach of its duties of equality and transparency under EU procurement rules. This would have affected both the score given to the supplier awarded the contract, and the bidder who challenged the decision.
The deal was a four-year, £8 million contract for asbestos removal. Woods Building Services was the incumbent provider, and provided the cheapest tender. But the local authority awarded the deal to European Asbestos Services instead. Woods challenged the way the council had applied its scoring criteria to the two bids.
The judge said it would be inappropriate to order the council into a contract with Woods as a remedy, but the losing supplier would be entitled to damages. The amount the company is entitled to will be assessed later, as the outcome of the new procurement process could affect the value of the damages award.
A statement from the council said: "Milton Keynes Council has strict controls in place to ensure our procurement of services is fair and transparent, and we are disappointed the court felt we fell short of our own controls, which it did not criticise. We fought this case as we felt the tender was sound.
"However we will look closely again at the way our procurement process is followed and - if during our review we find our procurement processes can be strengthened - changes will be brought forward as a priority. Another procurement process will follow, and our contract with Woods Building Services will continue throughout so the service to residents remains unaffected."